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Supporting kindness in teens: Here's what to know

Kindness is treating others with respect, compassion and care.
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Kindness is treating others with respect, compassion, and care. When people are kind, they are more accepting of others and their differences, and they are better able to form meaningful and strong social connections. The ability to be kind is an essential trait that can help contribute to a person’s personal and professional success. Research shows that kindness is linked to increased peer acceptance, improved academic performance, and positive mental health. The social world of high school is often challenging, with some teens experiencing bullying or being left out of cliques, and it is a crucial time to talk to your teenager about the value of being kind and welcoming to others.

Show your teen that kindness counts. A person’s kind deeds can have a profound impact on others, and organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity are good ways for your teen to put kindness into practice. You may want to ask your teen to volunteer at these organizations to mentor young children or help build homes for those in need. Your teen can volunteer at a local animal shelter or serve meals at a homeless shelter as well. You can also encourage them to do random acts of kindness for others. It can be something like smiling to another person as they pass by, listening to a sibling vent about their hard day, or standing up for someone if they are being bullied. Explain to your teen that these types of actions may seem small, but they have the ability to brighten a person’s day or turn their moods around. Exposing your teen to ways that they can make a difference will teach her an important lesson in the value of kindness. The good feelings that come from helping others are linked to emotional well-being. Studies have found that many people experience a rush of endorphins, often called a “helper’s high,” when they are kind to others, and this can have a positive effect on your teen’s confidence, self-worth, and sense of belonging.

Provide examples of compassionate behavior. A good way to show your teen the value of kindness is to talk about great leaders and thinkers and point out examples of how they helped and empowered others. For example, Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping the poor, sick, and helpless. It was through her acts of kindness that she was able to provide medical services to help those in need, build homes for orphans and those with terminal illnesses, and set up programs to help impoverished families. Talking to your teen about individuals like Mother Teresa and discussing how their efforts changed the lives of many individuals will help them understand the importance of helping others.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author, and Educational Psychologist.